Notes by Itzik Gottesman
“An ayznban” was sung by David Shear of New York City and recorded by me in his apartment in 1989. Shear was born in Luboml (Libivne in Yiddish), Poland. He studied in Ostrovitz, near Keltz in a Navaradok Yeshiva in the 1930s. This was a musar yeshiva and if you are not familiar with that term, I recommend you read Chaim Grade’s novel The Yeshiva as well as other works by him. This kind of yeshiva emphasized ethics in an extreme way. That the yeshiva students there would sing “An ayznban” which is an adaptation of Elyokum Zunzer’s (1836-1913) song “Lid fun ayznban” (not to be confused with his song/poem “Der ayznban”) is not that surprising, since Zunser’s poetry often mixed parable and Jewish ethics (for more on Zunser, see the previous song in this blog “A bayshpil” which is also by him).
An ayznban a naye, iz di tsayt gevorn
velkhe firt pasazhirn, say orem, say raykh.
Loyft zen dem vinder, nor alts dos bizikurn.
Vayl dus iz a mushl antkegn aykh.
A railroad train a new one, has become the time,
which carries passengers, both poor and rich.
Run see this wonder, but all this in your mind.
Because this is a parable regarding you.
Mir zitsn do in di vagonen.
Der lokomotiv iz di tsayt.
Er firt mit zikh mentshn milyonen.
Un er loyft vi mit koyln un shtrayt.
We sit her in the traincars,
the locomotive is the time.
He carries millions of people,
And he runs as with coals, and struggles.
Yeder poyazd iz a sekunde
Yede statyse iz a dor
yede psheshatke iz a shtunde
Yeder poyezd iz a yor.
Every train is a second.
Every station is a generation.
Every platform is an hour.
Every train is a year.
Deym bilet vus di haltst in tash
dus iz dayn mazl, dayn rayze-plan.
Vi tsi furn, un vus far a klas.
Dus iz bashtimt fun Got – der direktor fun ban.
The ticket that you hold in your bag/wallet;
this is your fate, your travel-plan.
Your destination, and in which class,
This is determined by God – The Train Director.
Bay di vokzaln klingt men mit a glekl.
Di konduktorn shpringen arup.
Es loyfn pasazhirn yeder mit zayn pekl.
Fil kumen tsu, un fil kumen up.
At the train stations, they ring a bell.
The conductors jump off.
Passengers run, each with his baggage,
Many come aboard, many get off.
Un az men heyst arupgeyn, to ding zikh nisht.
Khotsh di bist nisht zeyer keyn alter man.
Dayn bilet iz oys, un di veynst imzist.
Azoy iz bashtimt fun Got – der direktor fun ban.
And if they tell you to get off, don’t negotiate,
Even though you are not a very old man.
Your ticket has expired, and your crying is for naught.
So has determined God – The Train Director.